Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon echoes of the television show, The Big Bang Theory. Its homey geekiness, collectible vinyl, and terse dialogue reek of the TV show. But we are in Oakland after all, not Pasadena. The prose, too, reeks of the fast paced repartee of its TV counterpart. Then we flip into a Pulp Fiction kind of world with funny talking gangsters and hit men driving pimped out cars up and down the street of Telegraph Avenue. Now I make these video allusions, as that is the style of writer Chabon. Is he too derivative?
There is a learning curve involved here. Archy, black, and Nat, white, own and operate a vinyl shop, the Brokeland, and play in a band. Their wives, Gwen and Aviva are midwives. Nat and Aviva have a son Julian. Archy’s son, Titus, from an encounter after his return from the Gulf War, shows up. Gwen is pregnant with Archy’s baby. This is hip Oakland and even Senator Obama makes a guest appearance to enjoy the funk of their band at a fundraiser. His exchange with Gwen is heart warming and foreshadows things to come. Aviva ain’t cool with Titus.
The politics of community is overwhelming as the vinyl shop Brokeland is in jeopardy and the ladies might get sued. And then there is the newly arrived son from the past. A blimp ride and not selling out to that one long sentence of the parrot fifty eight, a bird of wide experience that rambles on in reflection comprising the middle part that I actually read at quarter to three in the goddamn morning. Who writes like this with these mind-numbing allusions to classic movies?
If you like Quentin Tarantino, you’re going to love this book. Chabon has taken images of all of Tarantino’s movies and has recompiled them in a mosaic of accolades to QT. In fact Tarantino has a bit part so to speak in the book. Wonder who might make a movie of this book?
Archy’s dad, Luther, a former Kung Fu actor is in trouble. It becomes a three-generation circus. As luck would have it, the doctor, Lazar, who is giving the midwives trouble about their license happens to be the doctor on call when Nat brings Gwen to the hospital, after her water broke. Gwen wants Aviva to catch the baby, but Lazar is there instead. Nat tells Aviva, “They send in Lazar, I think she’s (Gwen) going to fucking bite his head off.” “It’s a hospital, “ Aviva says. “They can sew it back on.” Aviva is in the middle of catching another baby at the time. Gotta love this dialogue, throughout the novel. Saying I’m sorry helps, too.